Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ephesians 4:17-31 Walk In the Woods

Ephesians 4:17-32
Arvon Township near Big Eric's Bridge
over Huron River
I have been missing my walks in the woods. It is just too cold for me to be trudging through the snow. I am anxiously waiting for spring so that I can take some nice long walks again. My husband walks on the road. I prefer long walks in the woods where the ground is a bit softer and easier on my bones. We both have a destination. Once one chooses their destination one normally keeps going until they reach it unless something intercedes and shows us a better path. Sadly, some don't like to acknowledge, though, that there may be a better path.

If our destination, our goal, is the Kingdom of God then we must follow that path. However, if we choose to focus on the darkness then we will live in the darkness. This is not a temporary condition. It is permanent unless someone or something intercedes before we reach the end of our journey and shows us the path to the light, who is Jesus the Christ.

Paul is attempting, in today's reading, to intercede by reminding us that if our path is directed by the darkness of understanding and we are following in the ways of the world rather than as Christ would have us live, we ought to change the way in which we live. We ought to turn around and get on the path that leads to eternal life. As Christians we have been taught to put off our old self, with all of its deceitful desires and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness.

Life is in many ways like a journey through the wilderness, a walk in the woods. Please, do not be deceived. Keep your heart and mind focused on your destination; the destination that can only be reached through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Stay on the path that he has prepared for you.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ephesians 4:1-17 One Body

Ephesians 4:1-17 NIV
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (vs 4-6)

We may be many; yet, we are one in Christ. We are united in His Body as we abide in him and he in us. We, who are members of this Body of Christ have been called and equipped for service in order that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Do you see what that means? Although our good works contributes nothing toward our salvation; we are called to serve the whole body according to the gifts that have been given to us as individuals for the edification and growth of the body of Christ, who is the Church, who is Jesus the Christ. (vs 12-13)

We must all serve in unity, according to the will of God, with the mind of Christ, who is our head, in order for this maturity to happen. What I've witnessed all too often is that when one person tries to do it all nothing much gets accomplished. Too many frying pans in the fire at one time being handled by one person and something is liable to get left undone or burned. Many congregations and even denominations are like that. We equip only a few for service and growth, if there is any, is slow. It's because some of the members of the body of Christ aren't working.

Consider the times that you may have injured an arm or a leg, maybe you had a lung infection or other illness that affected one part of your body. Did that one member of your body not slow you down; maybe, even stop you from doing anything? 

We are all members of one body, meant to work in unity and unison so that the whole body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and knowledge and Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

So lets get with it and equip all of the saints! Train the members of the body so that together we might grow in Christ.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. So much in these 17 verses, one can barely begin to cover the enormity of what they mean for us in a simple blog. Read them and pray for a greater understanding often.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ephesians 3 Prayer and Proclamation

Ephesians 3 NIV
St. Paul's ministry was mainly to those who were not God's children, but now through faith became God's children. Paul, a Roman and Jew, had been called and sent by God to brings the good news to the gentiles. Even in his suffering he continued to encourage them; reminding them and us that they and we are heirs of the one true God. They and we are members of one body and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Paul uses many words, both spoken and written, to remind others of God's love for them just as today we should be diligent in proclaiming this good news to those who are both near and far.

But, there is more... Paul not only preaches the good news to those whom he has been called to serve; he prays for them. I have found that sometimes prayer is more effective than all the words I can possibly spit out. Without God, all the words in the world will have no effect on anyone. And... so as pastors and ministers of the Gospel we pray for those we have been called to proclaim the good news to. We pray "that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (vs 16-19)

May God grant this unto us all that His name be glorified in the church and in Christ Jesus.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ephesians 2:11-22 Reconciled Family of God

Ephesians 2:11-22 NIV
We who were once not of the household of God are now members of his household; fellow citizens with all of God's people in His Kingdom. He came to bring peace. That is, he came to bring reconciliation between all who would follow him. But, there are those who want no part in our Father's house and in the end; even as the wall between God's children is torn down, sometimes a wall between God's children and those who reject Him is built up and peace in the world is not found. There are and will be many persecuted and attacked for being members of God's family. There are those who would reject our Father's house; those whose desires are only for themselves in this world resulting in great heartache and turmoil within households of this world.

It is a very sad thing when members of a household do not get along. Families break up and go there separate ways.  But, it is not so with the household of God. Jesus came to unite his Father's family; to reconcile all who would believe with God and with one another.

Sadly, the reality is that Jesus told us that he came not to bring peace to the world, but that family members would turn against one another. (Matt 10:34-36; Luke 12:49-53) We see this all too often and sometimes I think that there is not an earthly household that is not touched by this division. I see the evidence of this as families sit on separate sides of the aisle funerals and weddings. Some cannot even attend worship together even if they are on opposite sides of the room.

God did not send his Son so that His own household would be separated by dissensions and divisions. Rather, His household is united by the blood of Christ. Jesus did promise us peace. He promised that the world would not know peace. He promised his followers a peace that transcends any peace that might momentarily be found in this world. His peace is found in being a child of God and knowing that no matter what happens in this world we are still God's children; citizens of His Kingdom.

There is a blood that is thicker than blood. It is the blood of Christ shed for you. This is the blood that reconciles us to the family of God no matter who we are.

God's Peace be with - Pr. J

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ephesians 2:1-10 Saved By Grace, Through Faith!

Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." (vs 8-9)

By grace we have been saved, through faith. It is as simple as that. Salvation is a gift from God through Jesus the Christ. There are no good works that can save us. However, that does not mean that we do not do good works. "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (vs 10) We who have been born again into the Body of Christ joyfully serve others as Christ served us, even to his death on the cross for our sakes and for our salvation.

By grace we have been saved! Thanks be to God!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ephesians 1:15-23 Power In The Blood

Ephesians 1:15-23 NIV
My dear friend and brother in Christ,
Pr. John Henry (now retired),
preaching at Zeba Campground Meeting at the
summer worship site in the woods.
Every August for years, I have been privileged to preach at the Zeba Methodist Camp Meeting. The camp meeting is held by a faithful Ojibwa congregation that meets out in the woods at a chapel without walls during the summer months. Inevitably, every year, sometime during the week long camp meeting event, someone asks to sing one of my favorite hymns, "There Is Power In The Blood." There is power in the blood of Jesus!

I often wonder if everyone really understands that power. Do we really get it? The one who was raised from the dead lives! He is our head. He is the head over everything for the church, which is his body. The one who descended to hell, rose from the dead, and ascended to the heavenly realms lives. How much more powerful can one be than that? Trust in his power. Trust in the power of the blood of Jesus.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most glorious Father, give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we might know Him better; so that we might understand the awesome power of God. May our eyes be opened and our hearts enlightened so that we might know the hope to which we have been called: the inheritance we have received as children of God and the great power for all who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, as head over everything for the church.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ephesians 1:1-14 Marked and Sealed

Ephesians 1:1-14 NIV
My memory for names is absolutely horrific. I remember people quite well enough or probably more correctly I should state that I remember their spirit. I remember who and whose they are; just not always their names. I have often remarked that we should be tattooed in our foreheads upon our birth so that we might know and remember everyone's names.

In fact, we were marked with the sign of the cross on our foreheads as we were born again, into the family of God, through the water's of baptism. We were marked; sealed by the Holy Spirit, to the praise of His glory. It is this indwelling Spirit that I recognize in brothers and sisters when I greet them. For those whom I do not recognize as brothers and sisters in Christ, I pray a lot. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to live without the spiritual blessings that those who believe have received in Christ. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not belong to God or to live without Jesus. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live without the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance as children of God; heirs of His Kingdom.

I would desire that everyone bear the name of Christ; sealed by the Holy Spirit, to live for the glory of God. And... so we pray for all whom we love and as well as for all whose names we may not remember that they too might receive this gift of God's grace. And... so we share the good news that in Jesus we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Galatians 6 Circumcision or Cross?

Galatians 6 NIV
Apparently there were some Jewish Christians who felt that if they did not insist that all believers were to be circumcised they would come under scrutiny by local or national authorities. That could prove to be trouble for them. Being a follower of Jesus, the one who was executed, was not always a pleasant thing. It could get your persecuted. Many were afraid to lift high and boast in the cross of Christ alone.

Paul on the other hand had no fear of boasting in the cross of Christ. Rather, he insisted that would be the only thing he could boast in. He was not thrilled with the idea of Christians hiding under the rite of circumcision. We cannot hide from God. Either we are Christians or we are not. If we live to protect our own flesh then we will reap what we sow. If we live to please the Spirit, then we will also reap what we sow. Think about it! One leads to destruction; the other to eternal life!

Let us boldly lift high the cross of Christ! Do not be ashamed to say that you have been crucified with Christ and now are a new creation in him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, February 20, 2015

Galatians 5:13-26 Love; A Fruit Of The Spirit

Galatians 5:13-26 NIV
Love - a fruit of the Spirit of God! There are days that I just shake my head in wonder at the lack of love that I witness around me. People using people to get what they want. I believe that everyone wants love but they have no clue that gratifying the desires of the flesh isn't going to get it. Sexual immorality, anger (temper tantrums and tirades), idolatry, etc. isn't going to get you love. Love is of the Spirit, not of the flesh. Love is not self-seeking. Love seeks unity with one's neighbor. Love seeks good for others and not harm.

According to St. Paul: "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like." (vs 19-21) He warns us that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

On the other hand, those who live by the Spirit of God, will have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. They will produce fruit of the Spirit. "...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..." (vs 22)

Can you imagine a world in which the fruit of the Spirit is more plentiful than the desires of the flesh? What an awesome way to live that would be!

May God help us to love others, even as He loves us. May His Kingdom come - His will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Galatians 5:1-12 Law or Grace?

Galatians 5:1-12 NIV
Abandon your life to the grace of God! There are so many laws and traditions, I find it virtually impossible to keep to the traditions and letters of the law that are set forth by humankind. Can anyone know them all? Can anyone abide by them all? We have barely entered the season of Lent (it is the day after Ash Wednesday) and I find myself unable to sleep at 3 a.m. begging God for His mercy and grace; for without Him I would surely be lost.

The church on earth, in Paul's time, spent a lot of time worrying about the law of circumcision; whether gentiles should be circumcised or not. Paul said no. Others said yes. Paul insisted that keeping this law would not justify one person. His claim was that if we are trying to be justified by the law then we are alienating ourselves from Christ. The only justification that we have is Jesus the Christ. He died on that cross so that we might be justified in our Father's eyes. The law had to be satisfied. He satisfied it for us.

Mistakes will be made; sins will be compounded, laws will be broken. Much time will be spent worrying about it and trying to justify our own actions. If we continue to attempt to be justified by our own good works in keeping the law (which none of us ever have) we have fallen away from grace. We must abandon our lives to God's mercy and grace! We must trust Him! Our help is found only in Him. Give thanks and praise that your sins are forgiven for "the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;  we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets." Dan 9:9-10

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Galatians 4:8-31 Bound or Free?

Galatians 4:8-31 NIV
We know that through Christ we are free men and women. We know that we are children of God and have been freed from bondage to those who by nature are not gods. Yet, something within us keeps driving us back into bondage to serve those false gods. Some of them might seem innocent enough. We are not always even aware when we have become obsessed with them; after all, we live in a world where false gods tend to take center stage. They are harmless in themselves, until they become something or someone that we cannot do without. Our lives become centered around these things. When we cannot do without something or some activity then, dear friends, know that you have sold yourself back into bondage to this false god. You are giving your time, your money, your life, to serve this false god.

We are children and heirs of the living God. Jesus freed us from bondage with his blood. Take hold of that freedom and turn away from all that would return you to bondage.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Galatians 4:1-7 Child and Heir

Galatians 4:1-7 NIV
Rejoice! The time has come. The time has been fulfilled. You have been set free by the blood of Jesus Christ. You are a child of God; an heir of the eternal Kingdom!

All thanks and praise to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, February 16, 2015

Galatians 3 Listen to Him! Hear His Promise!

Galatians 3 NIV
We are indeed foolish if we think that we can be saved by keeping the law for not a one of us can keep the law perfectly. There is only way to be saved. We are saved by grace through faith in the promises of God. We are saved by faith in that Jesus died for us.

Just as Abraham was saved by his faith in the promise of God so shall we all be saved by faith. And, where exactly would we expect our faith to come from? It comes from hearing the Word of God. Faith comes from hearing the promises. How can anyone possible believe something that they have not heard? As our reading for Transfiguration Sunday reminded us; "Listen to him." (Matt 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35) Listen to him!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Galatians 2 Christ Lives In Me

Galatians 2 NIV
Remembering the poor is a good thing. But, sometimes we can get so wrapped up in doing good, those things that our traditions dictate, that we forget that we are not justified by our good works and go about acting like they amount to something that could be credited to us. Paul had to confront Peter about this. Although Peter accepted and even approved Paul's ministry to the gentiles, Peter kept himself  apart from the gentiles. He was saying grace... but, living by the laws of the his tradition.

Paul reminds us that righteousness cannot be gained through the law. It is by the grace of God that we are found righteous. It is by the grace of God that we are saved. We earn none of it. We deserve none of it. And.. if good works are done through us let us remember these words of Paul. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20)

So when we start thinking that we are accomplishing much, let us remember that it is not we who accomplish these things. Thanks be to God for the abiding presence of Christ!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Galatians 1:11-24 We Believe? Really?

Galatians 1:11-24
Paul has warned us to beware of those who preach another gospel and today we hear him reassuring us that he received the gospel from Jesus Christ by revelation. He did not receive it from humans who might have predisposed biases to teach one way or another but from Jesus, himself. After three years of preaching the gospel; he then went to meet Peter and James (the Lord's brother).

What an amazing revelation that was. The one who had been persecuting those who believed was now preaching the faith and preaching in such a manner that others were turning and praising God because of his witness. This revelation of Jesus changed Paul's life forever. It changed the lives of many who heard Paul witness to Jesus.

You and I have heard the witness. We have received the Holy Spirit. Yet, how alive and active is our faith? When was the last time that our witness actually helped in any way to bring someone to profess Christ as their savior?

Do we truly believe? What is it that we actually believe? Have we turned and received another gospel? Lord, help us in our unbelief. Help us to believe!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, February 13, 2015

Galatians 1:1-10 Other Gospels

Galatians 1:1-10 NIV
There are not many paths to the Kingdom of God. There is only one path. There is only one way. Jesus is the way. Do not listen to those who confuse and confound the world by telling us that there are many ways.

Already, in Paul's day, there were those who were teaching another gospel. They preach to please the masses. They preach to lift themselves up so that they might be adored and followed by men. They may sound like they are preaching Jesus; but, they are perverting the gospel to please the people rather than God. Do not listen to them. Do not follow them. (And, definitely do not preach another gospel yourself!)

There is only one gospel. Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

You have no idea where those other gospels; those other paths, might lead. Follow Jesus on the path that leads to the eternal Kingdom.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, February 12, 2015

2 Corinthians 13 A Threat and A Blessing

2 Corinthians 13 NIV
Paul closes his letter with a warning to the Corinthians that he will not deal lightly with those who have not heeded his warning when he sees them again. Paul's intent; however, is not to tear anyone down, but that they might be built up by putting aside the sin that dwells within them. His hope that they would all choose to live lives that would glorify God.

Apparently, he had a lot more authority than most Lutheran pastors. I was just imagining the response I would get if I wrote a letter like this and then closed with a threat for them to look out if they don't quit sinning. The church has definitely changed over the years. May God have mercy. God help us all to strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind and live in peace.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship  of the Holy Spirit be with you all. - Pr. J

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2 Corinthians 12 Ecstasy And Thorns

2 Corinthians 12 NIV
Paul experienced an "ecstasy" fourteen years prior to writing this letter. He claims that he was caught up to paradise where he heard things he was not permitted to tell. Well, he doesn't actually claim it was he who had this experience. He speaks in the third person possibly to deflect any admiration toward him that might occur because of this incident. Paul's mission (and ours); after all, is to proclaim Jesus the Christ not to boast about himself. It may well be that he did not speak of this incident previously because he was not permitted to tell what he heard in heaven. So what good would it have accomplished if he spoke of the incident, but could not tell anyone what he heard there? It would have only sounded like boasting about himself and his experience.

Paul does his best to defend his ministry without boasting about himself. Yes, he was gifted with the opportunity of hearing these unspeakable things in the third heaven. Yet, he was given a thorn in the flesh (we know not what that was) to remind him of his own weakness and not to boast about himself. So rather than boast about this moment of ecstasy, Paul boasts about his weaknesses so that Christ's power might rest on him.

God would not take Paul's "thorn" from him. Weaknesses are not a bad thing. It is when we can recognize our weaknesses and our limitations that we know that we must trust God to get us through.
When we realize that we are weak and can do nothing; then we are strong and not by our own strength but by the power of Christ that rests on us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2 Corinthians 11 False Prophets

2 Corinthians 11 NIV
Do not be deceived by false apostles. There are many who preach a different Jesus than the one whom Paul preaches and teaches. There are many who would preach a different gospel today, as well. Beware, of those with slick tongues, but have very little knowledge. The best way that I have found to know whether someone is an apostle of Christ or a deceiver of Satan is to know scripture. Read your Bibles. Hear the Word of God speak to you through the written word. If what someone tells you cannot be supported by scripture then toss that notion away. It is not for you.

One of the biggest lies that I hear today is preached by those who would teach that if we do this or that, God will give us everything we want. We will be prosperous. Paul was willing to endure hardship; others were willing to give of their own abundance, in order to make it possible for neighboring communities to hear the proclamation of Jesus and his kingdom. God does not promise that we will be wealthy in this world if we follow all the rules and regulations that our little minds can contrive. He does; however, promise us peace of heart and mind even while we are in the midst of persecution for proclaiming the truth.

I was reminded by our Sunday School this past Sunday that there is only one reason to want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus into his Kingdom, and that is to be with Jesus. If a preacher is preaching some other reason or goal than Jesus, who is the Kingdom, then run. No, maybe a better alternative to running is to do what St. Paul did. Speak the truth. Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God for all who would believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, February 9, 2015

2 Corinthians 10 Boast in the Lord

2 Corinthians 10 NIV
If we're going to boast, let us boast in the Lord. It is He who calls us. It is He who empowers us.

Paul finds himself in a situation where he must defend himself and his ministry in order to minister to the Corinthians. There will always be those who attack the servants of God in order to undermine them; in order to undermine God's Word. It is important that we understand that we are not in a battle with the world; but, with spiritual darkness. We may live in the world and feel attacked in the world. But, we do not fight alone. It is by the power of God that such battles are won. The battle is of a spiritual nature. With the help of God, we fight with spiritual weapons. We fight with the two-edge sword; which is the Word of God. One edge destroys what is evil; while the other edge for cicatrizing the wound; for the healing of the world.

Sometimes, it is necessary, as Paul tells us repeatedly, to confront those within the community that the evil that is being done might be brought to an end through repentance that the one who spreads the ill-will (evil) will be healed and reconciled to the Body of Christ. His words were often like a two-edge sword. He would attempt to destroy false beliefs and false thoughts, steering the people away from wrong actions and lifestyles even while he encouraged the people to continue in the Lord that they and all whom they knew or would know might be saved in Jesus Christ. The words of his lips and pen were meant to destroy those things that destroy lives and heal the people that God had sent him to serve.

Paul also knew that it was not he; but, the power of God in him who would fight this battle. Yes, Paul boasted. He boasted in the Lord and what the Lord was doing through his followers.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, February 8, 2015

2 Corinthians 9 Sow Many Seed

2 Corinthians 9 NIV
For the last few years, I've attempted to plant a garden. I sow very few seeds as my garden is very small. Someone in my household does not want a garden infringing on the space that belongs to the driveway. In the fall, I reap almost nothing. In order to reap a harvest we must sow generously.

Likewise the church on earth is like a garden. In order to reap a good harvest. In order for the church to grow, we must plant many seeds. We must scatter the seeds everywhere we go. We are to scatter our gifts to the poor and he who supplies the seed will increase our store of seed and enlarge the harvest so that we can be even more generous.

So that we can be even more generous.... Get that? The harvest is not for ourselves, no matter what the prosperity preachers preach. It's not about new cars and fancy homes. The harvest is so that we can be generous in assisting those in need. The harvest is so to help us plant even more seeds so that the church might continue to grow.

St. Paul encourages the people to give generously to the offering with cheerful hearts. In this way we supply the needs of the Lord's people as well as bring about many expressions of thanks to God.

"This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else." (vs 12-13)

Sow many seeds, that the harvest might be abundant and glory given to God. Thanks be to God!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, February 7, 2015

2 Corinthians 8 Give Joyfully!

2 Corinthians 8 NIV
I am sure glad that this lesson came up today. I paid all of our bills for the month a couple of days ago. I don't know how I did it; but, I forgot to write a check for our offering to the church. That hasn't happened in years! Offerings are usually the first checks that I write. Then I pay the bills. I learned to do this because sometimes when I wrote the check to the church last, I would find the checkbook very lean and would really have work hard at convincing myself not to give less. In order to avoid not being a joyful giver; I give first; before I start paying my obligations to electric and gas companies, mortgage companies, hospitals, etc..

St. Paul encourages the church to give generously out of love. It is for the sake of the gospel that we give - that all people might know the love of God through Jesus Christ. Our mission is; after all, to proclaim the gospel to all people and that is not a small job. There have been times over the years when I've heard excuses for withholding offerings like "The church needs  a new (you name it) and instead we're sending it to support (you name the mission or need). Until the council gets their priorities straight, I'm not giving any more." The truth of the matter is that congregations do not exist to serve themselves. They exist to serve Jesus. They exist to reach out with the good news of his love for all people whether that is in word or deed. If they are hungry; whether it be, for spiritual or physical food; feed them. Just as Christ fed the multitudes with the word and with loaves and fish; he continues to feed them through the church; through you. Do not withhold your offerings because of self-serving thoughts that we ought to serve ourselves before our neighbor. Jesus did not do this. His first followers did not do this. Why would we? Give joyfully so that all might see the love of God in Christ Jesus through you.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, February 6, 2015

2 Corinthians 7 Do The Hard Thing Only When It's The Right Thing

2 Corinthians 7 NIV
Love sometimes calls us to do the hard thing and confront the sins of those whom we hold in our hearts. It's not a matter of being mean. (If it is; back off.) It's a matter of caring about someone so much that you desire that they should know the salvation that is theirs through Jesus the Christ. We desire that others should know the joy that comes with living reconciled to God our Father through Jesus the Christ by the awesome power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul desired that the people of Corinth would know this joy. He desired that the people of Corinth should live their lives in reverence for God so he wrote them a letter reminding them how to live in Christ. Today, in our reading, we see him rejoicing because the sorrow that they felt when they read the letter brought them to repentance. Paul had no desire to be alienated from the people of Corinth. He trusted God and did the hard thing. In the end, Paul was able to rejoice because the hard thing was the right thing.

Make room for one another in your hearts. Do the hard thing out of love for others. But, if there is no love; then... back off because it is probably not the right thing.

May God help us to glorify His Holy name in love for Him and for one another no matter how difficult it may be.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, February 5, 2015

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Yoked

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NIV
Our reading today does not mean that we should not minister to unbelievers. It does not mean that we should not make all attempts to live peaceably with the unbeliever. It is a reminder that we should yoke ourselves to other Christians and not make lifelong commitments with unbelievers.

If you doubt this, then ask a Christian man or woman who is married to an unbeliever how that's working out for them. It does work out in many cases. But, it can be most difficult. It can be terribly trying for the believer who has Christ as the priority, while the spouse has another focus. Sometimes that other focus might be something that goes directly against the will of God. Sometimes it is more subtle and can drag the believing partner down.

Take St. Paul's warning against being yoked to the unbeliever. Love your neighbor, do justice... but, be careful that you are not tempted to live in such a way that Jesus takes a back seat in your life. You are a child of God. Live as a child of God within the family of God. However, if you have yoked yourself by marriage to an unbeliever; do your best to be a witness of God's love for them and for you so that in the end they too might be saved.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

2 Corinthians 6:3-13 Love and Affection

2 Corinthians 6:3-13
I have known way too many pastors who have come straight out of seminary ready to serve the Lord in every way possible. They are ready to open their hearts to the entire congregation and the whole community. They think that because they love, they will be loved in return. That is no necessarily so. Many will open their hearts to those whom God has called to love and serve them and the Lord. Others will not. Some pastors will not even make it three years because of this lack of love and affection from people they have opened their hearts to. They will resign from the ministry or they will move on hoping that the next congregation will be more willing to open their hearts.

This is not a new thing. Paul loved the people of Corinth; yet, not all of them loved him. Jesus loved the world so much that he was willing to give his life for all who would believe. Yet, not everyone loved him. His ministry, too, lasted only about three years. Those whom he came to love crucified him. The world hasn't changed that much. Many still do not love him. Even many who  claim to be his followers do not truly love him. Nor, will they all love everyone who follow in his footsteps.

May God open wide the hearts of all believers so that we might receive and give love - a fair exchange.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

2 Corinthians 6:1-2 Now is the Time!

2 Corinthians 6:1-2
"And Immediately!" That is the title of my sermon for Sunday. I am a little later than usual getting this blog written, because I felt the urge to work on Sunday's sermon immediately upon waking this morning, while the focus of where I was to be going with it was still fresh in my mind. When God calls us to do something, let's do it immediately. Don't wait until the football game is over. Don't wait until you retire. Don't wait. Do it now! When God gives you a gift, receive it now. He has given you the gift of salvation. Receive it now! Don't be trying to wait until the day of your death or later!

After writing the sermon, imagine my joy when I read the lesson for today's blog. Paul wrote: "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation."

It is now. It is today. It is not tomorrow. It is not after we die and are buried in the ground. Salvation has come to you through Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Kingdom of God has already come. Quit waiting around to live in that Kingdom. Quit waiting around to live in His presence. Quit waiting around to serve the Lord. Quit waiting to share the Good News! Do it now! Do it immediately! Now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Couldn't help all the exclamation marks, it is imperative that we receive His grace now in order to truly live life! Quit procrastinating! What are you waiting for? Live life in Him now!

Monday, February 2, 2015

2 Corinthians 5 Earthly Tent or Father's House?

2 Corinthians 5 NIV
There is a longing deep within the soul for something more. That something more that we long for is God. We cannot know him fully while in these mortal bodies. It is by faith, not by sight that we have the reassurance that He is with us. It is by faith that we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

We remain in these bodies; in these earthly tents, so that we might proclaim this message of reconciliation to God our Father through faith in Jesus Christ that all people might enter into God's Kingdom. Yet, it is, as Paul says, that we "would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord."

One day knowing the full glory of God; one day seeing Him with mine own eyes (Job 19:26-27), is my hope.

Let us rejoice for the gift and sacrifice of His Son that has made this reconciliation in our Father's house possible.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, February 1, 2015

3 Corinthians 4 Not About Us

2 Corinthians 4 NIV
Again, we hear that it is not about us; but about Christ who works in and through us.

There are times that it is actually embarrassing to receive accolades when I know that I have done nothing to receive them. If someone's eyes has been opened; if their mind and heart has been open to comprehend the glorious gospel of Christ it is not my doing. It is the work of God. If the glorious light of Christ has shone through me, it is not me. I am just the instrument that God uses so that others might see the light. I am merely the lantern. Jesus is the light that shines forth. The Holy Spirit is the oil within the lamp that keeps it burning for all without to see.

Yes, there are times when we are persecuted; there are times we are troubled. But, it is not about us. It is about Christ reaching out to a world in need of mercy and salvation through us.

May you be filled with His light that the world around you might see and know the glory of God !

God's Peace - Pr. J